Costa Rica’s canopy tours offer a lofty perspective on a bustling rainforest
By Bijal Vachharajani
I was stuck. Worse, I was dangling in mid-air, some 50 meters above terra firma, strapped to a horizontal traverse cable, looking quite like a langur. But unlike a monkey who can gracefully make her way from one tree to another, I was stranded in the middle of a zip line in Monteverde, a cloud forest in Costa Rica. Turns out I had braked too early. I craned my neck and spotted my friends gleefully pointing their cameras at me, recording this moment of indignity for digital eternity. Helplessly, I squinted down at the emerald tree tops I swung above. At long last, a grinning guide zoomed up and pedalled me back to the next stop.
Thankfully, the canopy tour got easier from there. Securely strapped in our harnesses, mind buzzing with the crisp instructions of our group leader, we felt like coal miners—kitted out in ropes, gloves, and a hard hat. Zip lining, once you get the hang of it, is a lovely way to see a pristine forest. You whoosh through the jungle, soaring above the trees and undulating hillocks, squealing like an excited puppy, and finally braking to a stop so that you don’t hit a stout tree trunk.
Canopy tours in Monteverde include long suspended bridges scattered through the cloud forest, which give you the chance to walk through leisurely and soak in the panoramic view. As we tottered through the bridges, keeling from one side to the other, we peered through our binoculars looking for the resplendent quetzal bird. The thick tree cover was the perfect hiding place for Monteverde’s brightly coloured denizen. We didn’t spot the quetzal, but instead met agile humming birds, dazzling butterflies, a placid sloth, a pair of chattering capuchin monkeys, and heard the eerie-sounding howler monkey.
After we finished the longest zip line, which our instructor called the “daddy of all tomatoes” (I don’t know why, or maybe I muddled up some Spanish here), it was time to tackle the 1-km-long Superman zip line. I was hooked on to a cable, face down. And with a push I went, flying like a bird, a plane, a superhero? I was worried that my spectacles would fall off (littering the pristine forest), so I didn’t strike the classic Superman pose. Now I know what it is to have a bird’s-eye-view of the land. It’s an intense experience: The greens look more vivid, the trees more stolid, and the wind seems louder.
The canopy tour finished with the Tarzan swing, where one jumps off a platform and swings on a piece of rope. Hard-core adventure sport enthusiasts may scoff at it, but for a wobbly-kneed first-timer this was as good as bungee jumping. I walked my longest walk ever, down a suspended bridge, heart thumping. I tried to say something to the instructor, but ended up croaking like a toucan. Safely hooked up, I jumped at the count of “tres”. It was a silent jump. My friends waiting below, did all the shouting for me. As I swung, I let out a yell that would have made Tarzan proud. And then the adventure was over, a tad too soon.